Life in Christ
The family is the
original cell of social life.
It is the natural
society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in
love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relation
ships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, se
curity, and fraternity within society. The family is the community
in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to
honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initia
tion into life in society.
The family should live in such a way that its members learn
to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the
handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at
times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other
persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide
for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God
and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The family must be helped and defended by appropriate
social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities,
other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of support
ing the institution of the family. Following the principle of sub
sidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the
family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.
The importance of the family for the life and well-being of
entails a particular responsibility for society to support
and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should
consider it a grave duty “to acknowledge the true nature of mar
riage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public
morality, and promote domestic prosperity.”
The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist
it, and to ensure especially:
the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in
keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions;
the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution
of the family;
the freedom to profess one’s faith, to hand it on, and raise one’s children
in it, with the necessary means and institutions;
47 § 1.
52 § 2.